UNITED NATIONS: A group of United Nations human rights experts welcomed the last-minute decision by the Pakistani authorities to postpone the hanging of Shafqat Hussain, who was convicted as a minor, while calling on them to halt the execution altogether.
Shafqat Hussein, who was convicted and sentenced to death for kidnapping and involuntary manslaughter, was due to be hanged on Thursday, but the authorities decided just hours before to grant a stay of execution.
The authorities also announced an inquiry into his age at the time he was convicted, and on the alleged torture he suffered during his interrogation. Hussain was 14 years old when he was arrested in connection with the disappearance of a young boy.
“We welcome the decision delaying Mr. Hussain’s execution, but we continue to call on the Pakistani authorities definitively to halt his execution,” said the experts, which include Christof Heyns, the Special Rapporteur on extra judicial, summary or arbitrary executions; Juan Mndez, the Special Rapporteur on torture; and Kirsten Sandberg, the current Chairperson of the UN Committee on the Rights of Child.
“Putting him through the ongoing agony of not knowing whether he may be executed in the next few days is cruel and one cannot help but wonder why a – seemingly – rushed inquiry into his age is only now being conducted,” they noted.
“Pakistan should carry out serious investigations into all cases of children in death row across the country.”
According to human rights groups, more than 8,000 people are on death row in Pakistan. Out of this number, several hundred may have been sentenced for crimes they committed as children.
The Convention on the Rights of the Child, the experts noted, guarantees the inherent right of every child to life, and provides that neither capital punishment nor life imprisonment without possibility of release shall be imposed for offences committed by minors.
“This execution, if carried out, will be clearly contrary to the Covenant of Civil and Political Rights, the Convention on the Rights of the Child and the Convention against Torture, which Pakistan has accepted as binging law,” the experts stressed.
Since reversing the death penalty moratorium in December 2014, 48 people have been executed across Pakistan.